Originally established in 1812, the Royal Brackla distillery near Nairn in the Highlands of Scotland was the first distillery to receive a Royal Warrant for its whisky.
Located on the Cawdor Estate, the distillery was built by Captain William Fraser who – upon returning from a successful period in India – recognised that getting into the whisky industry was an industrious thing for a young man to do.
Unfortunately, so did a number of other illegal smugglers – so much so, that Fraser began shipping most of his spirit to England (an unusual thing to do at that time) as a way to compete, since no one locally would buy his product. It proved to be his winning decision: in 1833, having established his reputation south of the border, Fraser received his first order from King William IV. Later that year, having proven his worth, the distillery was given the Royal Warrant, something it has held ever since.
Today, the distillery is owned by John Dewar & Sons Ltd and produces nearly 4 million litres of spirit per annum. For much of its life in the 20th century, it was predominantly used for blends. In 2015 John Dewar’s parent company, Bacardi, decided to reinvigorate interest in the distillery and released a series of single malts, which are due to be updated again imminently.
A Brief History
The Royal Brackla distillery may not be so well known amongst single malt aficionados but its regal stature and historical connections are well worth knowing about.
Originally established in 1812 by Captain William Fraser, the distillery near Nairn in the Highlands of Scotland made a name for itself early on for the connections it made to the Royal family.
Fraser was from local farming stock, having been born on the Cawdor Estate in 1767. When the opportunity arose to travel overseas to work in the British Army in India, he took the opportunity to leave his homeland and began a successful career, eventually moving up to the rank of Captain after 15 years.
Upon his return to Scotland, he joined up with a group of other successful locals to set up the Brackla Distillery (as it was known initially) on the estate where he was born. The distillery was not a massive success at first however, due to the large numbers of illegal distillers in the area who made it difficult to sell whisky locally.
Fraser bought out his business partners and decided to change up the routine, beginning to ship his whisky to England in the 1820s. By the mid-1820s, he was shipping nearly 1000 gallons of spirit to London and it was in 1833 that he received his first order from King William IV. It clearly suited the King, as later that year, the distillery was given the Royal Warrant, something no other distillery had been given before.
Fraser continued operating the distillery until his death in 1846 at the old age of 78 when his son Robert took over.
The distillery had retained the Royal Warrant when Queen Victoria took over from her father, and its status continued to rise in whisky circles, being more frequently renowned for its great characteristics for blending.
The distillery continued operating throughout the 20th century, passing through numerous hands until Scottish Malt Distillers picked it up in 1943. The company eventually expanded the site in 1965 and it wasn’t until 1985 that any interruption to the distillery’s production took place when lack of demand for whisky led to a six year closure.
In 1997, a £2 million facelift polished up the site, and it – and the other distilleries owned by John Dewar & Sons – became a part of the Bacardi stable in 1998.
Today, it produces nearly 4 million litres of spirit per annum. In 2015 Bacardi decided to reinvigorate interest in the distillery and released a series of single malts, which are due to be updated again imminently.
The single malt whisky releases are fresh and fruity, with lots of fruitcake notes coming from the finish in European oak ex-sherry casks.